According to a report by the Environmental Literacy Counsel, as of 2005 there were roughly 120 million utility poles in service in the United States. Most of these were made from wood.
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Dozens of companies in the United States and Canada harvest wood and process it into poles for sale to the utility industry.
The majority of wooden utility poles are made from Southern Yellow Pine which has been pressure treated with Chromated Copper Arsenate or CCA. This formula is made from chromium, copper and arsenic.
Other Trees Commonly Used
Manufacturers of utility poles also harvest Douglas fir, jack pine, lodgepole pine, Pacific silver fir and western red cedar.
Alternatives to Wood
Many environmentalists support the use of alternative materials for utility poles. These include composite materials, aluminum, steel and even concrete. Installing utility lines underground is another alternative to wooden pressure-treated poles.
The Wood Industry Position
The lumber industry represented by the North American Wood Pole Counsel argues that wood poles are a better and more cost-effective alternative to man-made materials and that safety concerns regarding the effects of treatment chemicals on groundwater supplies are exaggerated. Many experts outside of the industry disagree.